France’s European and foreign affairs minister has said that she hopes that Liz Truss’ appointment as the next UK prime minister will lead to a “new start” in Anglo-French relations.
Catherine Colonna was asked about the issue on RTL this morning (September 5), before Ms Truss victory over Rishi Sunak in the Conservative leadership race was announced.
Ms Truss, 47, won the contest with 81,326 votes from Conservative Party members, compared to Mr Sunak’s 60,399.
"I do not know if Mrs Truss will be named,” she said. “If it is her, let's hope it is a new start.
“She deserves it because [relations between the two countries] are not – because of the UK’s attitude towards the European Union – currently living up to the role that our two countries must play.”
Ms Colonna was also, like President Emmanuel Macron before, asked whether the UK was a “friend or foe”, and she said: “The UK is a nation which is a friend of France.”
This followed a question put to Ms Truss during a hustings held before Conservative Party members, in which she said that the “jury’s out” on whether President Macron was a “friend or foe”.
"But if I become Prime Minister, I would judge him on deeds, not words,” she added.
In response to this, President Macron said: "Whoever is considered to be the leader of Great Britain, I don't need to question for a second that the UK is a friend of France.
"We live in a complicated world, with more and more illiberal [ideologies] and authoritarian regimes. If we are not capable of saying whether France and the UK are friends or enemies - enemies: it is not a neutral term - we will have problems.
"So I say without doubt that the British people, the British nation, are friends [of France], strong and allied, regardless of its leaders, and sometimes in spite of those leaders."
Today, Ms Colonna commented that: “There are remarks made during campaigns [...] and then there is the exercise of responsibility; they are sometimes two different things.”
Ms Colonna was also asked if Liz Truss would be the new Margaret Thatcher, and responded: “That was a long time ago; we should not make comparisons”.
Liz Truss en passe de succéder à Boris Johnson ? "Espérons un nouveau départ dans les relations franco-britanniques, elles le méritent. Aujourd'hui, elles ne sont pas à la hauteur du rôle que nos 2 pays devraient jouer", @MinColonna dans #RTLMatin avec @amandine_begot pic.twitter.com/hVC857GpuF— RTL France (@RTLFrance) September 5, 2022
UK-France relations have been tested in recent years by the result of the Brexit vote and subsequent withdrawal negotiations, which resulted in clashes over issues such as migration and fishing.
Ms Truss’ “friend or foe” remark drew widespread criticism from commentators and opposition politicians, but was met with laughter by the Tory members at the hustings.
She then appeared to soften the comment at a later event. When asked if former US president Donald Trump was a “friend or foe”, she said: “I am not going to comment on future potential presidential runners.
“We have to work with who is in the White House. The United States is our closest ally. I have met both President Trump when he was in office and President Biden now he is in office.
“Both the United States and France are freedom-loving democracies and I will work with both of them, whoever the leader is,” she added.
A series of Cabinet roles
When Ms Truss first became a minister in 2014, she was the youngest woman in the UK Cabinet.
She served as secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, for international trade and for women and equalities, before taking up the role of foreign secretary in 2021.
She formed part of the Remain campaign during the run-up to the Brexit referendum, but changed her mind after the vote, saying that Brexit “gave an opportunity to change how things worked”.